CVS fraud prompts concerns over GWorld use

University officials are warning students to closely monitor their GWorld accounts after a CVS employee stole $1,378 from 16 students last month.

The current system does not adequately protect users from fraudulent charges, University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said.

From Jan. 10 to Jan. 22, an employee at the CVS on 22nd and E streets obtained GWorld numbers, falsified Colonial Cash transactions and then took money in the amount of the transactions from a register drawer. Some theft victims said the employee copied down their numbers, while Stafford said the employee figured out a way to manually enter transactions. GWorld receipts only list the last four digits of a student’s identification number.

Despite UPD and GWorld warnings about students’ susceptibility to theft, no changes will be made to the way manual transactions can take place, said Eric Hougen, project manager for the University’s Office of Business and Operations.

The thief was caught due to a GW student’s vigilant watch of her GWorld account. CVS did not catch the fraud because the register had the proper amount of cash and receipts when counted at the end of each day.

“I think it is critical for students to manage their accounts,” Stafford said. “I would strongly encourage students to monitor their transactions at all off campus partners.”

Hougen said it is the students’ responsibility to prevent fraudulent charges and there is a risk to using the card. He would not comment on whether GWorld officials monitor for fraud.

Hougen added that the CVS theft is a minor incident and GWorld misuse is uncommon. The University handles between 85 and 100 alleged GWorld fraud cases a year, 20 percent of which were accidental charges.

“It’s a similar risk to using a credit card or debit card system,” he said.

Theft victims, who said they were not confident in GWorld’s security before the incident, are now more wary of using the system.

“I am really not that surprised, I have heard stories of people (stealing numbers) and of people ordering a pizza, it’s really not that difficult. They seemed to do it pretty quickly and quietly,” said senior Bryan Michels, whose GWorld had $40 in fraudulent charges.

Until $40 was stolen from him, junior Carlos Vale said he did not realize how easy it was to steal a GWorld number and make false charges.

“I still go to (CVS) unfortunately. Now I go back and look. I am a little skeptical, I think about it twice before I use it anywhere,” he said. “It’s obviously not a very secure system.”

The employee would have continued to get away with the theft had a student not reported a $200 purchase she did not make at CVS.

Once notified of the fraudulent charge, UPD worked with the CVS loss prevention office to locate the source. A review of video and an interview with the employee led authorities to charge the employee with 14 counts of theft. The employee was arrested and fired. CVS reimbursed the $1,378 to students.

UPD trusted CVS’s loss prevention department to investigate all the manual GWorld transactions that occurred at the store, Stafford said. There are eight CVS locations that accept the GWorld card, according to the GWorld Web site. Tony Tucker, manager of the E Street CVS, refused to comment. The CVS’ national press office did not return a phone call from The Hatchet Wednesday.

“There is nothing else right now to investigate at CVS,” Stafford said. “We believe by working with loss prevention at CVS we found everything.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.